Substance > Stuff

Ryan Allred (Pastor | Partner Development)

In 1996 Oprah did something that forever changed Christmas. She released her first installment of Oprah’s Favorite Things. This list of seemingly random items quickly became THE hot list of Christmas gifts. Why? Simply because Oprah liked them. That’s all. Essentially Oprah thought about what she would like, and her thought work alleviated the need for the rest of us to think. Like robots, we took her programming and liked whatever she liked, giving them as gifts to our friends and family.

Historically gift-giving has not been this way. The best gifts were the result of much forethought. This forethought demonstrated a deep understanding of the recipient, and therefore conveyed love – which, by the way, is the whole point for giving gifts. We give gifts because we love, and we want to demonstrate that love with something we know will give the recipient joy.

Even if we haven’t completely consumed the Kool-Aid Oprah is dispensing, we have most likely fallen victim to thoughtless gift-giving. We simply want to check a box, so we scurry to find something that will work. If it’s the hot gift of the season, surely they will like it, right? And it’s only $50 more than we wanted to spend? Touchdown! We count our Christmas duties complete as we click “Buy” on Amazon and move on to the next thing in our busy holiday schedule.

But what if we approached this holiday season differently? What if we tested the idea that the substance is greater than stuff? What if we thoughtfully considered what the recipient would enjoy, what’s in line with their values, what will make them smile? We might discover that conveying more love actually costs less money. We might find that we have more at the end of the day to Give Hope to those who typically go without.

I know of a family that has taken this a step further. As adult brothers and sisters, they are now grown, each with their own families, but they still want to give gifts of substance to one another. As they have matured in their gift giving and receiving, however, they have discovered that the gifts that produce the most joy, that align the most with their values, and that convey the most love, actually go to people they will probably never meet. So each Christmas they work together to find a mission project they all believe in, and together they take the money they would spend on one another and give it to a great need or cause. As they work together to bless others in Jesus’ name, their gift accomplishes the true purpose of gift-giving – they experience the joy of celebrating in their love for one another and their love for their Savior. As they Give Hope, they live out the secret that substance is greater than stuff.

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Post Series: Give Hope 2015

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